15 "Brain Foods" That May Help Preserve Your Memory

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Eating a healthy diet is important for general well-being, but it might even be beneficial in the prevention and delay of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Diet isn’t the only factor in prevention. Other things need to be taken into account, too, such as, genetics, stress and mental stimulation—such as completing puzzles or learning a new language—can all be a part of maintaining great brain health. Try these top “brain foods” for potential memory-boosting powers. 

1. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts such as walnuts, almonds and peanuts as well as sunflower and pumpkin seeds, are brain foods high in protein and omega fatty acids. Protein is the second largest matter in the brain, second only to water, so it's important to nourish your brain with protein rich foods.

Proteins also help neurons within the brain communicate with each other through neurotransmitters made from amino acids. Amino acids are also found in protein and are packed with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. These are essential fats our bodies don't produce, but we need to consume. Omega fatty acids aid in building cells to maintain normal brain function as well as helping with storage of new memories through the creation of synapses or connections within the brain.

2. Salmon

Oily fish, such as salmon, are high in omega 3s, DHA in particular, a building block of the brain that improves brain function. A higher omega 3 intake is shown to improve the memory of Alzheimer’s patients.

3. Beans

Beans are rich in fiber, B vitamins and omega fatty acids. Fiber helps keep you fuller longer and creates a gradual release of sugar, helping concentration and memory. B vitamins help convert a chemical compound, homocysteine, into other important brain chemicals like acetylcholine, which aids in creating new memories. And, of course, omega fatty acids are essential for brain development.

4. Blueberries

Blueberries and other dark berries are rich in antioxidants, which protect against free radicals, making them one powerful brain food. They also help fight against degenerative changes in the brain and enhance neural functioning and communication.

5. Dark and leafy greens

Greens such as kale, spinach and broccoli are high in vitamin E as well as folate. Vitamin E helps protect cell membranes against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that attack cells within our body. Some causes of free radicals include stress, pollution, radiation and processed food. Folate is also found in dark greens, and helps with normal brain development.

6. Lean Red Meat

Lean red meats, such as sirloin steak, are high in iron. Iron aids in the production of neurotransmitters, as well as helps blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, including the brain, aiding in attention and concentration. This can aid in learning new things, and mental stimulation is shown to ward off Alzheimer’s.

7. Avocados

They're rich and creamy and filled with omega fatty acids as well as vitamin E. Omega fatty acids are essential for cell growth and brain development, and vitamin E helps protect cell membranes from free radicals. Vitamin E may also slow progression of degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, through its protection, maintenance and repair of cells within the brain.

8. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which is an antioxidant. Lycopene regulates genes that influence inflammation and regulates cell growth within the brain.

9. Whole Grains

Whole grains contain complex carbohydrates, omega 3s and B vitamins that all support normal brain function. The complex carbs provide a steady supply of energy that regulate mood and behavior as well as aid in learning and memory.

10. Red Cabbage

Red cabbage is antioxidant rich. These antioxidants help guard against free radicals that attack your DNA, proteins and carbohydrates within the body. Some say free radicals are what leads to aging and may even be a contributor to Alzheimer's disease.

11. Brown Rice

Brown rice is full of B-vitamins, which help convert homocysteine, an amino acid, into important brain chemicals used for learning and creating new memories.

12. Green Tea

Green tea is packed full of antioxidants that help protect against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable, reactive molecules that attack your body’s cells.

13. Red Wine and Grapes

Not only does it taste good, some studies suggest it’s good for you, too. Red wine contains an antioxidant called resveratrol. This antioxidant helps improve blood flow to the brain and aids in attention and concentration. Remember: Moderation is key when it comes to consuming alcohol. Recent studies suggest adults who have one glass of wine per day may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Because resveratrol in wine comes from the skin of grapes, opting to eat grapes might be another way to get the benefits of resveratrol without drinking alcohol. Plus, eating grapes is a great way to add fiber to your diet. 

14. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is not only delicious, but it's packed full of antioxidants which, as we know, protect against free radicals. They also support the learning and cognitive functions of the brain, which could delay the effects of Alzheimer’s.

15. Quinoa

Quinoa is high in complex carbs, iron and B vitamins. The brain uses up 20% of consumed carbohydrates, which is a lot for being just 2% of your body mass. Complex carbs are brain food. They provide a steady supply of energy needed for normal brain function. Iron helps blood oxygenate the body and is important for attention and concentration. B vitamins help create brain chemicals important for creating memories.

Find a Doctor

Have any questions about the prevention or diagnosis of Alzheimer’s? Our knowledgeable experts at UnityPoint Health can answer your questions. Find a provider near you.

Foods That Support Brain Health Infographic

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